Ben Rhue, 69, said when he first moved to the Hillandale subdivision along White Oak Road, there were nothing but woods that surrounded his neighborhood.
Over time those woods were cut down. Retail stores, restaurants and a big movie theater were built. And today you have White Oak shopping center.
As a result Garner has grown, especially in the last 13 years, when the population grew 47 percent. There are nearly 27,000 people living in Garner now. And with White Oak growing and Cabela’s set to open in the spring, that means more traffic on roads that already have their share of problems.
Cabela’s, an outdoors mega-store – expected to open in the spring – will potentially put 3.6 million people in White Oak’s market, given the lengths people will drive to the chain. It will be the first Cabela’s in the state.
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Core Properties is also negotiating on some northwest quadrant properties. Planned investment in the two tracts is estimated at $80 million, expanding Garner’s tax base and drawing retail and restaurant jobs.
Core also intends to eventually develop an even larger tract of land, about 300 acres, across White Oak Road from the current shopping center south of U.S. 70. The traffic that comes with that is something Rhue and others in the Hillandale subdivison say they are not looking forward to.
“We need a stop light right here,” Rhue said, pointing to the entrance of the neighborhood. “It’s hard to get out. It’s very hard and it’s getting dangerous.
Across the 2-way street from Hillandale is the entrance to Target, which is inside the White Oak Shopping Center.
Traffic problem worsening
“As you got people turning out of Target and sometimes they don’t use turn signals, and you’re sitting there to wait and need to go left, traffic is just really bad and people are doing more than 45 (mph) up and down the road,” he said. “It’s hard to pull out because you can’t see up the hill.”
Rhue said he’s seen plenty of wrecks on White Oak Road in front of his neighborhood, including a few people knocking over the stop sign that stops cars before they come out of the neighborhood.
Elizabeth Hamilton, 65, also a resident of Hillandale, said the same.
“In the mornings and the afternoons, we find that is harder to do now,” she said of leaving the neighborhood. “The 8 o’clock hour, and the 5 o’clock and 6 o’clock hours. I think there is going to be more people coming into the neighborhood. It’s difficult.”
“There have been a few more break-ins than we used to have,” her husband, Robert Hamilton, 60, added.
“There’s a lot of people retired that live in here. So there’s somebody always around, but with that, you have that age factor, then getting out here and mixing it up with all that traffic.”
The Hamiltons have lived in the Hillandale neighborhood for five years. Just in the last five years, the shopping center has grown, the couple says.
“The growth, I think, has been good overall for Garner,” Elizabeth Hamilton said. “I think it’s going to bring more people into the area. Of course the money that it’s bringing in is definitely an asset. And you can’t stop progress, which is fine. I don’t want to stop progress. I want it to grow. But I still want to have the security and the safety that I did have.”
Robert Hamilton said he tries to avoid the shopping center all together. He said he sees too many accidents especially during the holidays. “It’s a danger zone over there,” Robert Hamilton said. “Inside and around that shopping center, these people are nuts.”
Gene Turner said he has been hit twice by cars in the shopping center because people were either confused about who has the right of way, or weren’t paying attention.
“It’s crazy,” Turner said. “I don’t want to be going to White Oak and dreading the experience. They are facing a major, major problem and they are going to have to fix it soon.”